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From Extending French Colonial Control to Safeguarding National Prestige: The French Medical Dispensaries in Southern China

By Florence Bretelle-Establet


International audienceIn the last years of the nineteenth century, the French Ministry of Colonies (ministère des Colonies) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to send French physicians to Chinese areas close to the northern frontier of the Indochinese colony. Soon after their arrival, these physicians founded medical dispensaries, five of which were later transformed into hospitals and functioned until the 1930s. The appointment of French physicians and the creation of French medical establishments generated a daunting bulk of archival material. Monthly and annual official reports together with letters between the different institutions in charge of these establishments allow reconstructing their history and bringing to light the political motivations that underlay the decisions of creating and developing medical dispensaries in the area. They also offer valuable insights into the interactions between various members of the local society and these physicians, who, unlike most of their European and American counterparts, were lay doctors whose mandate in China had no relationship with religion.This chapter first offers a reminder of the context of the presence of French military doctors in the far south of China (Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong). It then highlights how the targets of the project progressively evolved as the political contexts in China and in France changed. Finally, through an analysis of the medical activities carried out in several establishments located in different places that hosted divergent colonial arrangements, the paper tries to assess the nature and significance of the French medical activity

Topics: French colonial medicine, South of China, Treaty ports, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, [ SHS ] Humanities and Social Sciences
Publisher: Peter Lang
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:hal-01505337v1
Provided by: Hal-Diderot
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